Ancient Greek religion

Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. The application of the modern concept of “religion” to ancient cultures has been questioned as anachronistic.[1] The ancient Greeks did not have a word for 'religion' in the modern sense. Likewise, no Greek writer known to us classifies either the gods or the cult practices into separate 'religions'.[2] Instead, for example, Herodotus speaks of the Hellenes as having "common shrines of the gods and sacrifices, and the same kinds of customs."[3]

Aegeus at right consults the Pythia or oracle of Delphi. Vase 440–430 BC. He was told "Do not loosen the bulging mouth of the wineskin until you have reached the height of Athens, lest you die of grief", which at first he did not understand.

Most ancient Greeks recognized the twelve major Olympian gods and goddessesZeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes, and either Hestia or Dionysus—although philosophies such as Stoicism and some forms of Platonism used language that seems to assume a single transcendent deity. The worship of these deities, and several others, was found across the Greek world, though they often have different epithets that distinguished aspects of the deity, and often reflect the absorption of other local deities into the pan-Hellenic scheme.

The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece, to the islands and coasts of Ionia in Asia Minor, to Magna Graecia (Sicily and southern Italy), and to scattered Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean, such as Massalia (Marseille). Early Italian religions such as the Etruscan religion were influenced by Greek religion and subsequently influenced much of the ancient Roman religion.